Is being harder on yourself than others a good idea?

Being vulnerably honest…

OK, it’s been a while since I sent out a newsletter or posted an article online. It’s time that I let you know why (even if I don’t like to admit it). I’ve been feeling down about myself and frankly, I have no idea why. Have you ever been there? You just feel blah and so much so that others notice. So, what do your well-meaning friends do? They ask “What’s wrong?” and then you feel worse because you just don’t have an answer. It’s so weird. Things in my life are going great – terrific relationships, great corporate speaking engagements, inspiring corporate and PMI workshops, buying a new car and even have tickets to the World Series.

Internal Dialogue

What’s even more frustrating about this blah is that for the last 10 years I’ve been teaching people how to think better, and make better decisions, and find fulfillment in their lives. I, of all people, shouldn’t be down or depressed. (At least that’s the dialogue in my head.) I should just use the processes that I teach to help me get out of the doldrums. But, I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t know what to do. And frankly the last thing I wanted to do was try to write a newsletter to tell people to think positive and not be sad.

So to those of you who have been asking “What’s going on? I don’t think I’ve seen a newsletter from you in a while?” Well, that’s why. And, while I still feel that way, I have realized something very important. I. Am. Human.

It’s ironic that I teach people to see their team members and colleagues as human beings and not just human doings. Yet, here I was beating myself up because I wasn’t doing what I thought I should be doing. I was shoulding all over myself. I was seeing myself as a human doing. I know I was being harder on myself than I’d ever be on somebody else.

Being Harder On Yourself than Others

And there’s tremendous irony in that as well because one of the things I have asked the folks in my audience is “How many of you are harder on yourself than you are and other people?” Hands go up all over the room.  Then I proceed to tell them why that is NOT a good thing that adds value to their life.

Think about it… You are human being and you believe that it’s good to be harder on your self than you would on any other human being.  What’s the rationale for that? I've asked and some say…

  • If I’m harder on myself I’ll reach more of my goals.
  • If I’m harder on myself it’s because I can control what I do and how I respond.
  • I’m harder on myself because that’s when I’ve learned to do.
  • I’m harder on myself so that I can show other people just how serious I am about the things that I do.
  • And, the sad truth is that some are harder on themselves as a way of self-punishment so that they feel less guilty about the things that they have or have not done.

There are an incredible number of excuses as to why they are harder on themselves than they are on other people. However, none of them truly hold water. None of these ‘reasons’ make logical, rational sense.

You are Unique, Priceless, & Irreplaceable

If indeed you are human being who is unique, priceless and irreplaceable, who has skills and talents and gifts to bring to this world, isn’t it true that every other human being is just like that too? As a self-leader, you see your intensity and drive as being a good thing to help you do the things you want to do and become the person you want to become.  However, as a leader (of others) if you are not as hard on your team members as you are on you then you must see them as being less than you.  Is that true?  Why would you baby and coddle them while pushing yourself on to greatness and success?

Do you see the problem here? You may believe that being harder on yourself helps get you to where you want to go faster but if that were true, as a compassionate leader, you would be just as hard on other people to help them get to where they want to go faster.

Now if you’re hard on yourself as a way of punishment for your past failings or imperfections, and other people deserve to be treated better than you, what is that saying about you? Do you not deserve kindness? Don’t you want to be a better leader of you? If you are a good leader and treat others well to get their best, well…

Here’s what I’m going to start doing today and I’m hoping that you’ll join me.

  • I’m going to stop being so hard on myself.
  • I’m going to give myself a little grace just as I do every other human being on the planet.
  • I’m going to stop shooting for perfection and start striving for excellence.
  • I’m going to forgive myself when I fall short and create a plan to do better.
  • I’m going to realize that there are some days that aren’t going to be better than yesterday.
    Yet, my intention will always be to be better tomorrow than I was today.

I’m going to remember that even if my performance falls below my expectations, I am still enough. As a human being I will always be enough… I will always be unique, priceless, irreplaceable and loved.

When Others Struggle

When my friends are down and struggling, I give them grace, kindness, and compassion as well as room to experience the emotions that they’re having without judging them. I allow them to work through their emotions and their thoughts so that they can experience comfort, security and connection while being sincere, open and vulnerable.  I’ll let them know, as Og Mandino writes in The Greatest Salesman In The World:

The tides advance; the tides recede. Winter goes and summer comes. Summer wanes and the cold increases. The sun rises; the sun sets. The moon is full the moon is black. The birds arrive; the birds depart. Flowers bloom; flowers fade. Seeds are sown; harvests are reaped. AII nature is a circle of moods and 1 am a part of nature and so like the tides, my moods will rise; my moods will fall.

It is one of nature's tricks, little understood, that each day I awaken with moods that have changed from yesterday. Yesterday's joy will become today's sadness; yet today's sadness will grow into tomorrow's joy. Inside me is a wheel, constantly turning from sadness to joy, from exultation to depression from happiness to melancholy. Like the flowers, today's full bloom of joy will fade and wither into despondency, yet I will remember that as today's dead flower carries the seed of tomorrow's bloom so, too, does today's sadness carry the seed of tomorrow's joy.

Today...

  • Today I'm going to give myself a little grace.
  • I'm not going to be so hard on myself and have unrealistic expectations of what I can do with the limited time I have.
  • I'm going to accept my moods for what they are and carry-on as best I can so that I can continue to learn and grow and experience this wonderful thing that we call life.

I hope that you’ll do the same and be nicer to yourself… that you’ll throw away the burden of perfection, stop being a victim of your own irrational goals, and know that you are enough. That, just as you are, YOU are unique, priceless, beautiful, and irreplaceable.

If you’re going to join me, please comment below or on LinkedIn. Let’s build a community of people who are OK with being human and still striving to be better.